Friday, November 30, 2012

The Instamatic Camera

An Instamatic Camera
The Kodak Instamatic
I added an Instamatic from Kodak to my collection this week.

It is the not the first Instamatic that I ever owned. I think I was given one when I was about 12, in 1970. I remember it as the first quality inexpensive no-focus required camera. Everyone had them.

Later, I was given a more modern one which used the square lightbulbs (see below - And thanks to Wikipedia for the picture of the Instamatic in its case with the flash bulbs).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Filmstrips and Education


Classroom record player
When I was in school, filmstrips were the height of multimedia coolness.

Many school film strips came with records so the operator would advance the film strip by one frame with each "ding."

This process be explained on each and every record meant to run along with the filmstrips.  I remember  the voice explaining that: "At this point, you should be on the frame with the filmstrip title that says (for example):  'Adjectives Describing Nouns.' If you are not on this frame, move forward or back to it at this time to that page.  During the filmstrip, you will hear some pings like this < PING > which will mean that it is time to advance the filmstrip by one frame.  Lets try it now. When you hear the ping, advance the film strip. <PING!>.  Did you advance the filmstrip?  Are you on such and such page? Well done!"
Filmstrip projector

 The techie kids were rewarded by the teachers and became AV Assistants (Audio visual assistants) who got to run the film strip projector (and the movie projectors which was a harder project). First, they would go down to the office and check out the appropriate AV cart, bring it upstairs in the elevator (reserved for teachers and special tasks), wheel it into the class, and run it.

Anybody have educational film strips for sale?  I bought half a dozen film strips a few years ago but would like to have more.

I also have an early film strip type of projector known as a magic lantern which had film strip pictures which are hand painted on glass. The light is not electric, it's an oil lamp!

The entire collection is housed in our office at where elementary school teachers can get help with literacy and vocabulary from VocabularySpellingCity, help with elementary writing instruction from (great implementation of Writers Workshop), and for K-2nd science from

Friday, June 1, 2012

Laterna Magica or The Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern
This past weekend, I was thrilled to run across a beautiful old Magic Lantern in a flee market. With just a bit of haggling, I took it home. Magic Lanterns were used both to entertain and teach.

A magic lantern predates movies and slide. Essentially, it was a pre-electric version of a slide projector.

Mine is about ten inches tall, comes with the original box and slides, and has the little metal oil lantern that provided the light source.

Magic Lantern circa 1905
It appears to be a GBN toy magic lantern, similar to one that I found on the UK National Media Museum which cites a 1905 date.  But mine has metal legs and a different sort of chimney.  The toy ones are the ones for home use.    Wikipedia says:  The magic lantern has a concave mirror in front of a light source that gathers light and projects it through a slide with an image scanned onto it. The light rays cross an aperture (which is an opening at the front of the apparatus), and hit a lens. The lens throws an enlarged picture of the original image from the slide onto a screen.[1] Main light sources used during the time it was invented in the late 16th century were candles or oil lamps. These light sources were quite inefficient and produced weak projections.  

As I dug into this, I discovered online the Magic Lantern Society. They say; Introduced in the 1600's, the magic lantern was the earliest form of slide projector and has a long and fascinating history. The first magic lanterns were illuminated by candles, but as technology evolved they were lit by kerosene, limelight, carbon arc, and electric light.

I emailed them and quickly got this response:  The Encyclopedia of the Magic Lantern does not cite GBN, but the companies making toy lanterns were mostly in Nuremburg, Germany. You are fortunate to have the box and slides that fit as well as the lantern. Is there an illuminant? Toy lanterns were very popular for children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You see them in movies such as Fanny and Alexander. Magic lanterns were once a premium for a childrens'  magazine in the early 20th century. They were used both to entertain but also to teach.

Larger lanterns were used in schools, churches, Secret Societies, and as the machine that brought Illustrated Lectures of travel, science, history and religion to the citizens of towns all across the country, We estimate there were over 100,000 magic lantern showmen, ie, people, mostly but not all men, who gave lectures and shows using the magic lantern. If you go on ebay you will see the wide range of magic lantern slides still in circulation.

If you are interested in the Magic Lantern and want to know more, the Magic Lantern Society has a quarterly research Journal that it publishes and a monthly enews letter of less scholarly news. We  have a bi-annual convention. If you are on the West Coast, it is a great chance to meet other collectors and to mine their knowledge of yourlantern and other interests.  We are an interesting group of people who collect lanterns, or slides or ephemera or whatever about the lantern and the culture around it. It was everywhere in the 19th and 20th centuries.  

There is a Magic Lantern Society with get togethers and a website:

UPDATE: In August of 2018, we finally tried lighting our magic lantern! And about a week after that, I noticed a Magic Lantern in the nursery of Mr. Banks' house (where Mary Poppins worked).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1961 Mimeograph Machine by Standard Rocket

A few great things happened today.  It was the day before my birthday and the office threw a small party for me.  Per my request, we did have a general singing of Happy Birthday, we had the good singers do rendition for us.  Wow, what an improvement that is. We have four great singers in our office and it was beautiful as opposed to the usual horror when everyone, on tune or not, joins me.  BTW, I'm one of the out-of-tune singers.

Secondly, there was a big box and inside was a 1961 Standard Rocket mimeograph machine with a few dozen Copy-rite Spirit Master Units  and two standard wicks (I'm not entirely sure what they are).  The machine is hand cranked and appears to be in working order.

The mimeograph masters seem a little aged so I'm not sure that they'll work.

About the smell. Yes, the smell of the freshly printed mimeographs is of course the most important thing.  The fact is that I have bad cold today and I can't tell if the masters have the right smell or not. Stay tuned.

BTW, does anyone know what gave them that fantastic smell and how I could reproduce it?